Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Virgin Galactic are working under U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) contracts to design air-launch systems that can orbit sub-100-lb. payloads for $1 million, including range costs. “Previous attempts at air launch did not focus enough on the rocket side,” says Mitchell Burnside Clapp, Darpa’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (Alasa) program manager. “They over-invested in an aircraft that could only do one thing—support the launch.” ...


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